telling minor stories to avoid a major one

Lists! 2008: Favorite Movies by Barbecue Bros
January 26, 2009, 12:11 pm
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With this, the Lists! 2008 finally come to an end. Didn’t get a chance to see all the movies I wanted to but here’s my top ten based on what I saw.

10. Red Belt (dir. by David Mamet)
While maybe not at the top of his oeuvre, I really enjoyed this David Mamet film and was reminded how cool his dialogue can be. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a jujitsu master with an unflinching moral code in a world of duplicity and corruption (kind of similar to the role Forest Whitaker played in Ghost Dog). Tim Allen even gives a nuanced performance.

9. Iron Man (dir. by Jon Favreau)
Robert Downey Jr. establishes himself as a bonafide action star and Jon Favreau establishes himself as a director. If not for Christopher Nolan Batman movies, this would probably be the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen. Definitely the most fun. 

8. Man On Wire (dir. by James Marsh)
A doc on the true story of french circus performer Phillipe Petit’s 
traverse across the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Setup as kind of a heist film, this was a fascinating documentary.

7. Pineapple Express (dir. by David Gordon Green)
A stoner buddy comedy from the Apatow gang and directed by the  indie director David Gordon Green. While it might seem like an odd combination at first, it works on film. And James Franco finally gets a chance to express his comedy acting chops.

6. Slumdog Millionaire (dir. by Danny Boyle)
A story of a boy and his destiny to reunite with his lifelong love through a series of questions he faces on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that happen to correlate with several events in his life. Oh, what luck.

5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (dir. by Nick Stoller)
 Yes, another Apatow comedy but FSM is just too funny and quotable for me to ignore. Great cast of some genuinely hilarious people. A nice first screenplay by star Jason Segel.

4. Synecdoche, New York (dir. by Charlie Kaufman)
As with his other scripts, there are a lot of layers to try and wrap your mind around with a Charlie Kaufman film. Synecdoche, New York is no different but also might be one of the hardest to get. Philip Seymour Hoffman uses a MacArthur Genuis Grant to fund a grand theater production of his life in NYC in which he builds a scale replica of the city and then casts doppelgangers of him and his family, who then in turn cast their own doppelgangers in the “production” and then those doppelgangers of doppelgangers cast their own doppelgangers, all in the spirit of the production and staying in character. Ultimately, this will warrant multiple viewings.

3. Rachel Getting Married (dir. by Jonathan Demme)
Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie Dewitt give great performances here. Parts of the movie were actually hard to watch due to the awkwardness, and that is a testament of Hathaway’s portrayal of the estranged black sheep/drug addict out of rehab for the weekend to attend her sister’s wedding at her childhood home. Besides the extended music video/jam session after the wedding itself,  I loved the music. And Tunde from TV on the Radio was in the movie!

2. The Dark Knight (dir. by Christopher Nolan)
There was no way that this film and Heath Ledger’s performance could live up to the monumental hype, right?  Actually, it could. And Heath Ledger’s performance was even better than billed. 

1. In Bruges (dir. by Martin McDonagh)
I tend to rank higher those films that I wasn’t expecting and then kick my butt. In Bruges has a great script (written by McDonagh himself) in which seemingly unimportant events throughout the film result in a satisfying and smart climax. I’m not normally a fan of Colin Farrell but he gives a nice performance along with Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.

The other 2008 films I saw, ranked and after the jump: Continue reading

Lists! 2008 Update by Barbecue Bros
January 22, 2009, 12:34 pm
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Favorite movies of 2008 to come on Monday. I promise you guys.

Lists! 2008: Favorite Video Games 5-1 by Barbecue Bros
January 21, 2009, 11:17 am
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Finishing up the favorite games of 2008…

5. Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix (Xbox Live Arcade)
An awesome remake of the game in HD graphics. It’s Street Fighter…not much else to say. But it has officially pumped me up for Street Fighter IV in February. Just need to get some arcade sticks…

4. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)
It’s more Gears, with improved cover, new weapons and some variation on levels and gameplay. They’ve also attempted to have more of a plot (with mixed results) and help you keep track of achievements. It really is more badass.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)
Kind of shocking to me that a GTA game isn’t my favorite game of the year, but that’s just an indication of how much I enjoyed the two ahead of it. GTA IV faithfully recreates New York City while introducing a darker protagonist and plotline. Added touches like GPS, advanced use of your cell phone, and fun side quests using the internet (like online dating) make this the deepest GTA game yet. Can’t wait for the The Lost and the Damned DLC to come later this year February 17.

2. Braid (Xbox Live Arcade)
This game takes the traditional platformer and turns it on its ear by adding the manipulation of time and a very serious (although some may argue very pretentious) storyline, though in the end you are still saving a captured princess. Some of the puzzles take several (sometimes much more than that) attempts to solve, but actually completing one on your own is a quite rewarding experience. One of the coolest games I have ever played, and I have to mention the beautiful waterbrushed art and music unique to each level in the game.

1. Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)
Fallout 3 truly is an open world game, where you explore Washington, D.C. post-apocalypse in hopes of finding your dad and ultimately helping the inhabitants of the Wasteland create a pure water source. But that’s just the main quest – there are tons of side quests, memorable characters and locations to discover. Though I am new to the
Fallout series and generally not a fan of RPG’s, Fallout 3 is my game of the year if only because it was the only game to keep me up until 3am playing it.

Honorable Mentions:
Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe (Xbox 360)
Rainbox Six Vegas 2

Wish I had gotten to:
Far Cry 2
Fable II
Castle Crashers
Geometry Wars 2
Mirror’s Edge
Rock Band 2

Burnout Paradise

Lists! 2008: Favorite Video Games 10-6 by Barbecue Bros
January 21, 2009, 10:53 am
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I actually didn’t play a ton of games until the last three months of the year, mainly due to Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer. Here are numbers 10-6…

10. Fifa 09 (Xbox 360)
Ahh, old dependable. But this year I feel like they made substantial changes to the passing system of the game thus improving the overall experience. Graphics and teams were still great, as expected.

9. Devil May Cry 4 (Xbox 360)
Kind of an unexpected title for me since I hadn’t played any of the previous 3 and only picked it up because it was on clearance. It’s a fun hack-n-slash with rpg-lite elements where you can pull off some insane combos and go against some pretty epic bosses. And Nero’s Devil Bringer is one of the cooler weapons I’ve used in recent memory. A very pretty and cinematic game, though having to replay back through the levels with Dante (the original character in the series) for the second half of the game was a bit annoying.

8. Prince of Persia (Xbox 360)
Like its Ubisoft brother Assasin’s Creed, Prince of Persia makes a very strong first impression by being a very pretty and introducing some new gameplay ideas, but the further you play it the more the repitition and subpar battle system starts to grate on you. The acrobatics are mostly cool, but can also frustrate if you happen to push a button in the wrong context. At least you literally cannot die in the game. Still, all in all you can’t fault Ubisoft for taking some chances in rebooting the PoP series. Hopefully they will improve on a solid start for the next game.

7. Bully (Xbox 360)
Its a two year old port of a PS2 title with some added classes (mini-games), but I found it to be a quite enjoyable open world title. Inexplicably, I even found myself wanting to grind through the various collectibles and side missions to get the achievements in this game when I never do that. A little buggy, but luckily I never experienced the game-freezing bugs that many seemed to experience.

6. Civilization Revolution (Xbox 360)
Takes me back to my high school days playing
Age of Empires, though the Civiliation series is a contemporary of AOE. Its just fun to create a civilization and advance it though time. I only played it a handful of times before getting to the bigger games of 2008, but I will definitely be coming back to try and win with most (if not all) of the civilizations.

Lists! 2008 update by Barbecue Bros
January 14, 2009, 10:35 am
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The rest of the 2008 lists for video games and film will continue next week in order to give me a chance to play Fallout 3 some more and to maybe squeeze a few more films in – Milk, The Wrestler, Mongol.

Lists! 2008: Favorite Songs 5-1 by Barbecue Bros
January 13, 2009, 2:08 pm
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5. Pete & the Pirates – “Mr. Understanding” (from Little Death)
Fun little ditty from the Reading band. Kinda wish I at least picked up the album to see what its all about.

4. The Walkmen – “In the New Year” (from You & Me)
I’ve said a lot about this song throughout the year and included it on my end of summer mix. The vocals are probably the main reason why I like the song.

3. Pop Noir – “Girls of Prey”
I don’t know a ton about this band of twins, and they don’t seem to have released any albums. But this song has a Joy Division-esque sound, which makes sense because the band comes from Manchester.


2. The War on Drugs – “Show Me the Coast” (from Wagonwheel Blues)
A ten-minute opus that perfectly mixes shoegazer and Bob Dylan influences.


1. MGMT – “Time to Pretend” (from Oracular Spectacular)
All you need to know about this song is the opening lyrics:
“I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life/
Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives/
I’ll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars/
You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars”

Lists! 2008: Favorite Songs 10-6 by Barbecue Bros
January 13, 2009, 1:39 pm
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I’m not so great at talking about individual songs but here are songs 10-6. The rest of the list to come later today.

10. Sigur Rós – “Gobbledigook” (from Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust)
This is the stills version of the first video from Sigur
Rós‘s album this year. As I’ve stated before, it sounds like an Animal Collective outtake, though with a Sigur Rós spin on it. I love the drums on the track.

9. My Morning Jacket – “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, pt. 2” (from Evil Urges)
Unfortunately, this is the shortened version of the song whereas the album version has the great, hypnotic outro and lasts over 8 minutes. Pretty cool animation in the video itself though.

8. Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happens” (from Microcastle)
Initially I was drawn to “Agoraphobia” off Microcastle, but “Nothing Ever Happens” kept growing on me after repeated to the listens. Again, the outro is what grabs me about this song, especially after listening to it while driving home for Christmas.

7. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire” (from Only by the Night)
This video is a bit vain, but I was very hopeful about the sound of the new album after hearing this leaked single earlier in the year. The album may not quite have lived up to my expectations but this song still kicks ass, with the driving rhythm and the urgency in Caleb Followill’s vocals.

6. Empire of the Sun – “Walking on a Dream” (from Walking on a Dream)
Kind of a new-wave-slash-dream-pop sound to this song and most of the album. Also, throw in some disco. Maybe not normally my thing, but this song’s a winner.